As we begin the New Year, it is clear to everyone that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to one of the most challenging business environments in history. Cities dependent on travel and tourism, like Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Orlando faced an imminent crisis with hotel occupancy, restaurant bookings, and live events shuttered and visitors – usually in the millions – dwindling to a few intrepid travelers.
Even in cities seemingly resistant to mass tourism have felt the bitter sting of the pandemic. New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami saw rising unemployment, rent defaults, personal and commercial bankruptcies soar in 2020 and local economies are still struggling mightily, despite efforts by local and national government to blunt the economic impacts with stimulus packages, enhanced unemployment benefits, tax deferrals and other initiatives.
So what does this mean for business?
Fewer customers and clients, with fewer dollars to spend and much more competition. The winners who will survive 2021 understand that the difference between good and great in made online. Customers are increasingly savvy and look to online reviews first before making a purchase or choosing a service provider.
In 2021, if you own a business, you need a strategy for online reviews, and you need one immediately.
Things business owners should know about online reviews
Here are few things every business owner needs to know about online reviews:
Car buyers are 90% more likely to visit your car dealership website and 5.3x more likely to visit your dealership if you have positive online reviews.
92% of internet users read product reviews and 89% of people say that reviews influence their purchasing decisions
How to Create a Strategy for Monitoring Online Reviews
What you don’t know can be used against you. If you are not actively monitoring online reviews, you will never know why someone did not call or follow up on your advertising or marketing. Online review monitoring is essential for understanding what people are saying about you or your company.
Effective online review monitoring will enable you to see trends that may suggest it is time for more training, or personnel changes, or new business practices.
There are a variety of online software tools available for monitoring online reviews. Bird Eye, Grade.us, Review Trackers, Trust Pilot, Podium all offer solutions for monitoring online reviews in real time.
Set aside ten minutes every day for checking new reviews or, depending on the volume of reviews for your business, subscribe to alerts that will update you each time a new review is posted online.
How to Create a Strategy for Responding to Online Reviews
Monitoring reviews is only the beginning. It’s what you do with the reviews you get that really matters…
There are three kinds of online reviews: Positive, Neutral and Negative. Most businesses think they only need to worry about negative reviews. Wrong!
The most important reviews are from people who have had a positive experience with your business. These are the customers who will shop again and tell their friends and family. These customers are your brand ambassadors, your cheerleaders and strongest advocates and it doesn’t take much to make them feel appreciated.
A simple “thank you” will do. Don’t miss the opportunity to show appreciation for the people who took time to tell the world that they like you and your business.
Neutral reviews are neither positive or negative, but these also deserve a response. Try and encourage more detail, publicly or privately, so you can find out how to convert these reluctant fence-sitters into five-star phenoms.
Negative reviews hurt. Try not to take it personally. Everybody and every business has a bad day. Detailed negative feedback can help you better understand what areas of your business can improve.
Is it time to update the menu? Replace the receptionist? Ditch the deliveryman? It’s negative reviews that offer these insights.
Of course, there will always be some negative reviews that are mean, obnoxious and cruel. Not every review is deserving of a response, and few are worthy of a debate. Consumers are sophisticated enough to distinguish between constructive critical feedback and hateful speech.
It is up to the people tasked with review response to distinguish between these reviews and prepare an appropriate response.
Set aside time every day for review responses. Timely responses make a huge difference, especially when dealing with negative reviews, as there still may be time to resolve the issue and update the review.
Review responses are not just for the benefit of the person who left the reviews, it is for the hundreds and thousands of people who may see that review in the future.
Think long-term and strategically about your responses, because they have more impact than you think!
How to Create a Strategy for Getting Positive Online Reviews
It often seems that customers and clients are quick to turn to Yelp or Trip advisor or Google to leave a bad review, but rarely make the effort to praise good service or a positive experience, because that is their reasonable expectation.
It is a challenge that every business must deal with: how do you get your happiest customers to leave a positive review?
There are a few ways to attract more positive reviews. The first, is to send an email or text requesting a review very soon after the customer interaction, while the business is still top of mind for the customers.
The second piece of advice is not to give up after the first request. As a parent, I know that I need to ask my kids to do their chores or clear the table several times before they listen.
Your customers need a reminder or two, as well. We are all busy and have lots of competing priorities, and leaving a review online is usually not at the top of the list. We usually recommend at least three attempts. Third, is to stress how important reviews are to your business.
Most people don’t realize what business owners know, reviews can make or break your business. Be honest, tell your customers it’s been a challenging year and you need their support… and ask for it!
For businesses that aren’t sure whether their customers will leave a good review or a bad review, there is a way to start with a brief survey question, such as “would you recommend company x to friends or family?”
If the answer is positive, go ahead and ask for the review, if the answer is negative, it’s probably best not to ask for a review.
Hire an Online Reputation Management Company
You wouldn’t hire a lawyer to perform a facelift and you wouldn’t hire a plastic surgeon to file a lawsuit. We hire experts to do the things we don’t have time to do or we don’t do well, and the same rules apply in online marketing.
An experienced online reputation management company can help monitor online reviews; provide professional responses to positive, negative, and neutral reviews; promote positive reviews to the business sites that matter most.
Minimize or eliminate the impact of damaging reviews – all for less money than you can probably imagine and certainly for less than the impact of a less than stellar rating on top sites like Google My Business, Amazon, Facebook, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Better Business Bureau, Yellow Pages and more.